When I was in college, I remember having a conversation with my roommates about how going to a restaurant and asking for a table for one was about as pathetic and mortifying as it gets. I love restaurants. Love them. But I also love the company of friends and conversation, and I’ve always felt sorry for people who are dining alone.
I had children.
And a busy husband who left town for 5 days.
And said children were possessed by demons and became hollow shells of the obedient moral beings I had trained them to be.
As evidence, these are ALL things that happened in the 5 days Matt was out of town:
- Grant and Clark shut Natalie in the dryer.
- Grant sneaked food again (even after our mini-lesson at FHE about: if we catch anybody sneaking food out of the food storage again, you’ll have to eat giant bowls of vegetables for dinner).
- Grant waited for mom to leave the room during dinner and dumped the vegetables down the drain.
- Clark somehow managed to make his bedroom look like a tornado actually touched down right near his bed. I told him he had to clean it all up. He didn’t.
- Long after bedtime, he still didn’t, so I told him I’d wake him up early so he could pick up his room before school.
- I called Matt that night and told him I had to get up at 6 a.m. the next morning to make Clark clean his room and make Grant a bowl of vegetables for breakfast.
- I did get up. I woke up Clark. He still did not clean his room.
- I told him no breakfast until his room was picked up.
- I gave up and took Clark to school at 10 a.m (90 minutes late)., admitting strategic defeat.
- I forgot to mention that somehow during that early morning battle, he managed to make a 2-inch hole in his bedroom wall. Somehow a piece of the vacuum cleaner attachment flew off while he was using it to play baseball with his Webkinz. Don’t worry, it didn’t make any sense to me either.
- I lost my temper and even spanked him once. He was mildly amused.
- I took all three children with me to visit a man who used to be my boss and mentor at BYU. (We had made a date on the calendar several weeks ago.) He is a wonderful man whom I admire very much. On the way to his house, I rehearsed with my children all of the “do” and “do not” rules they needed to remember at his home. I was there about 5 minutes when I knew that, despite their polite smiles and nods in the van, they had totally disregarded that entire conversation.
- Since we couldn’t really talk (my mentor, his wife, and I), they invited the children to go downstairs and play with some toys that they kept for their grandchildren. That almost worked, except for the five or so times I had to excuse myself, go downstairs and ask them to please stop yelling, throwing toys, and acting like animals. Please.
- Finally I sent them outside, and we were able to talk for a few minutes before we heard a loud bang. I closed my eyes and breathed deep before I excused myself and went outside.
- Grant had decided to lift up the window-well iron grate covering, and oops, it crashed down into the window well and up against the basement window. But for the grace of guardian angels, the window did not break. With clenched teeth, I sent them all to the van.
- I helped my friend fix the window well cover, muttered my most polite apologies and farewells, got into my van, and tried to make fire come out of my eyeballs when I looked at my children. (That man used to like me, respect me even. He served on the general Sunday School board for a while and had even recommended my name as a possible board member once. At this point, I’m not sure if he’ll ever want to speak to me again. . . . at least not in his house or without the presence of a social worker.)
- Try to imagine a maniacal woman delivering an dramatic heart-wrenching lecture that ought to bring any child to tears, repeated at least 4 times on the way home.
- They should have wept for their great sorrow and remorse, but they just stared back at me in the rear-view mirror obviously worried only for my mental health.
- The rest of the afternoon was known as “jail.” No one could leave their room for the rest of the day. I was done.
- I called Matt and vented. I told him how mortified I was about what had just happened at my friend’s house. He talked to them on the phone and supposedly convinced them to live a life of respect and rectitude.
- With all children now in their own rooms, I stood in the kitchen breathing deep breaths and trying to regroup. I decided I probably had to feed them dinner, so I decided I would heat them up a frozen burrito, take it to their rooms, call it dinner, and be done with it.
- I went downstairs to get burritos out of the freezer, and what did I find? Grant. Sitting up on the top shelf of my food storage, up by the ceiling sneaking food. He froze like a trapped animal. I stared into his eyes for what seemed like a full minute and then said calmly. “Get down. Go. to. your. room. NOW.”
- I avoided them the rest of the night, took them their burritos, told them to get ready for bed, and then quoted to them from Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse: “Today was a difficult day. Tomorrow will be better,” and then I made them promise that it would be.
- The next day is honestly a blur. I remember very little except that it was raining for about the 76th day in a row (I exaggerate when I’m a little worked up.) and that I showered way later in the day than I should have. Oh, and since Matt was staying longer than he originally planned, I had to scramble and get a babysitter so I could go to a cousin’s bridal shower. That took about a dozen phone calls. And in a story that is too long to explain, I somehow managed to steal my aunt’s wallet and put it in my purse without even knowing I had done it. I only discovered it late in the evening, after she had returned to her home several hours away. So embarrassing.
- Sometime during that blur, Clark finally cleaned his room. This required an ongoing battle on my part.
- On Saturday, I played the role of jovial slave driver all morning long trying to get all three of them to do their chores. They only accumulated a grand total of 11 time outs between them (Clark earned 8). Then the afternoon was relatively pleasant, mostly because the sun finally came out.
- There was more. Trust me. This is just the stuff I remember.
Matt called at about 3 p.m. to say he had just left St. George and would be home in about 4 hours. I told him that when he got home, I was leaving. He paused. “Like leaving, leaving? Are you going to abandon us?” “No,” I said, “but I need some peace.” Just before 7 p.m., I made dinner, set the table, and put all the food out just as Matt got home. We all hugged and kissed at our great relief that dad had finally arrived. I wished them a happy dinner, and I left. I took my purse, my keys, and my Kindle.
“Table for one please.”
And, boy oh boy, did it feel right.
“Standing in holy places is all about being in good company, whether you are alone or with others.” — Sharon G. Larsen